Monday, March 30, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

I'm not the only one who thinks this economic downturn has a strong upside--Kurt Andersen at TIME magazine agrees: "it's time to ratchet back our wild and crazy grasshopper side and get in touch with our inner ant, to be more artisan-enterpriser and less prospector-speculator, more heroic Greatest Generation and less self-indulgent baby boomer, to return from Oz to Kansas, to become fully reality-based again." [TIME]

A voyeuristic look at our "New Glass City"--maybe New York should change its name to The Big Fishbowl. [NYT]

Take a tour of the destroyed Upper West Side with Tom Dispatch: "you might say that an economic dirty bomb did go off in downtown New York and this city (not to say, the nation and the world) has been experiencing a second 9/11 ever since, even if in slow motion." [TD]

Take a peek back at a time when the city was covered in psychedelic murals and gay men baked casseroles. [ShadowS]

When Wal-Mart comes, there may be a lot of arrests--New Yorkers like to say "fuck." [Consumerist]

Fans of underground New York, check out The Future Beneath Us. [NYPL]

Mets Field

Citi Field opened yesterday and fans filled the rainy stadium to check it out. On the evening news, a few expressed that in the planning of the stadium, the regular folks had been ignored in favor of the corporates. Still, Bernie Madoff's seats, right behind home plate, were likely empty, so some of those corporates just won't be coming.

I happened by the ballpark on Friday, on a trip to Flushing, and took a run around the place. On the 7 train, before you pull in to the station, you pass the rubble of Shea. An ignominious reminder of what was. Couldn't they have cleaned this up before the opening?



I found the old home-run apple stashed away on a side street, looking a little forlorn at the bullpen entrance. A barely rescued artifact, it doesn't even have a full view of the field. Meanwhile, the bigger, shinier, new apple is polished and ready to pop (probably with a Mac logo stamped on it and accompanied by the computer's start-up sound).



The Mets' new home is a nice-looking stadium, made of brick and archways, but that name. Oh, that regrettable corporate name.

George Vecsey at The Times asks us to: "Suspend for a day that the name of the field is currently Citi Field, named for a banking company that has pledged $400 million over 20 years in naming rights while pocketing a gigantic bailout from the government, that is to say, from us."

That's hard to suspend.

The MTA's got it right, as they seem to be boycotting the name. What used to be Shea Stadium...



...today is merely "Mets." Maybe they're waiting for Citigroup to go under with the rest of the banks, or just hoping, like many of us, that the stadium gets a decent, human name. Something that actually has to do with baseball.

What if we all just refuse to call it Citi Field? What if we all agree to call it Mets Field? (Or, as a commenter notes happened with Candlestick Park, just keep calling it "Shea.") It could work. The Flatiron Building was originally the Fuller Building, but people preferred the nickname. It stuck. This kind of thing happens all the time.

Whenever you utter "Mets Field," think of it as one small way to take a little something back from the banks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Clean, Well-Lighted Place

On the Beverly Hills'd end of Bleecker Street, that mini Rodeo Drive west of about 10th Street, also known as the Marc Jacobs Mall, there's little left of the old Village. After we lost Nusraty Afghan Imports to Brooks Brothers, perhaps the only "original" shop that now remains is a small gallery called A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.



According to a number on the door, it was established in 1976. Today, it's wedged between an Intermix and one of the two (?) James Perse stores on the street. Its storefront isn't slick or pretty. Its name is still spelled out in a circa-1980s typeface that looks a lot like Courier.

I'll bet you they get pressure from all sides to move or sell. Yet every time I walk by, they are still there. Surviving.



I can't find much information about the gallery. One online listing states that it's run by a couple named Martinelli and their mission is "to educate people about contemporary prints by exhibiting graphics of the highest quality and the broadest range that appeal to us," like Hockney and Motherwell.

This week, they've got a photograph in the window that caught my eye. (I couldn't read the photographer's name.) It's a scene from another piece of the vanished city, a scene of old Times Square, from 1993 when 42nd Street was a mixture of sleaze and art, in that moment before "revitalization" washed it clean. In this shot, we see Jenny Holzer's "Truisms" on the marquees and my favorite (now vanished) ghost sign of all time: "Cooped Up? Feelin' Low? Enjoy a movie today."



This is all we have left. Ghosts inside ghosts. How long before this is gone too?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

AMNY wonders...Next Stop 1970s?

From the department of "it could be worse," in California, it's either the 1930s or the 1850s. Not only are people living in Hoovervilles, they're also prospecting for gold. Meanwhile, in NYC, some clubs are still serving cocktails sprinkled with gold flakes.

I'm a fan of neologisms (condoschmerz, et. al.). Now, miscellaneous almanacker Ben Schott has begun a blog dedicated to the new words of our time. We're living in a scary world of Amortals, Glam-mas, and McSaints. [Schott's]

A book I'd like to read: Subway commuters read aloud from John Wray's novel Lowboy. [Macmillan]

When tapas comes to St. Marks, one person sees a classy joint, another sees a classic neighborhood spot. Either way, they both seem awfully defensive about it. [EVG]

Don't forget: This Sunday is part 2 in the Vanishing City town hall discussion at Dixon Place. Check it out. [CR]

Bushwick Thrift

This is the final installment of my Bushwick tour, one long day that began with a walk along Myrtle Avenue, then through the industrial section's street art. In that same area, near the Morgan L stop, in the middle of nowhere, is an odd cluster of thrift shops.



What makes these thrift shops so fascinating is that they strongly resemble the thrift shops of the 1980s and early 1990s. Stepping into these places is like stepping back into a time filled with second-hand Doc Martens and Elvis wall hangings. They remind me of Domsey's. (Does Domsey's still exist?)

Huge and jam-packed, these shops offer a plentiful amount of affordable stuff. This is not the questionably named Cheap Jack's or Andy's Chee-Pees. Here, everything really is cheap. While there are a few (well-behaved) hipsters here, most of the customers are low-income locals. These are real thrift stores, meant for people with not a lot of money to spend.

You don't get that "too cool for school" feeling here, yet you will find cool stuff. Kind of a perfect balance. Maybe, out in Bushwick, it really is 1990.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Future of Ridgewood Theater on Myrtle Avenue looks mostly bright. [Post via Curbed]

And a win for the opponents of land-grabbing Atlantic Yards? Gehry says, "I don't think it's going to happen." [Gothamist]

Roy is not happy with the price of fancy Danny Meyer dogs at CitiField. $11! [RS]

Kirby's not wagging his tail about the bespoke scene on Extra Place. [CR]

When developers think of Avenue B, what sort of businesses do they imagine? Yoga and yogurt, of course. [EVG]

Sidney Lumet loses his "SCAD" lifetime achievement award in Greenpoint. [NYS]

Industrial Art

After my walk along Myrtle Avenue, I took a turn onto Wyckoff, into Bushwick's industrial zone, an area like Gowanus or Red Hook, turning into art galleries and lofts, yet still functioning and buzzing with industry. Here you can still hear the grinding of sheet metal and clanking of mysterious machines.



The buildings are covered with urban street art. Wandering through the desolate quiet, you never know what you will see when you turn the corner. Maybe a hoochie mama straddling a gold Rolls Royce...



...or a wall of inexplicably goggled men rowing bathtubs across a sea of skulls inhabited by baby llamas--a massive mural by Broken Crow, Paint Goggles, and Over Under.



Perhaps most impressive are the "production walls" by Robots Will Kill, a three-sided collection mostly of faces, of cock-eyed beings wearing neckties and fezzes and men with mountainous double chins; along with a few animals--birds on a branch and a fish carrying what looks like a four-poster bed on its back. All of it set against the starkly beautiful industrial landscape.



Wander around and you'll come upon smaller pieces--tucked into corners and slapped onto abandoned doorways.



Faces wearing weary expressions, fed-up faces, men in hats, riding horses, women crying and dancing.

All these things. Maybe the world isn't ending
. Here, people are at work, on art and at machines. There is a catch-your-breath feeling. A quiet equilibrium.

Can it stay like this? Or will the tide of glass towers inevitably arrive and wash it all away?



See all my Industrial Bushwick pics here

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Plague of Locusts

Are you a grasshopper or an ant? Disclosure: I'm an ant. I could use a little more grasshopper in me, but really, after a decade of

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/24/science/24tier.html?_r=1&em

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locust

*Everyday Chatter

Found an interesting blog today on architecture, culture, and the city. Check out D.J. Huppatz's Critical Cities and read about 21st Century New York Interiors and Meatpacking District design, where "wasted space" is equated with luxury.

When zombie banks build a city of ghost towers, New York starts to look like Bangkok. [Slate via FP]

The lovely, zebra-rich Gino lives for another 5 years. [Eater]

The LES gets fake graffiti for the boat-shoe set. [BBoogie]

One writer wonders: When will white men stop waiting for a handout? [Salon]

Starbucks faces an existential crisis. [Slate]

Ken looks back at the pre-fabulous Minetta. [GVDP]

Washington Square Park renovation is over budget and delayed. [WSP]

Myrtle Avenue

"Dear reader, you must see Myrtle Avenue before you die, if only to realize how far into the future Dante saw.” --Henry Miller

From Myrtle to Myrtle (from the JMZ stop to the L stop of the same name), I took a walk along Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick. It's a walk that takes place mostly in the shadow of the elevated tracks (though not the lost Myrtle El), green and peeling, dripping dirty waters. In the air is the smell of fried chicken and the sounds of salsa music.



At the start, a mechanic's lot is filled with vintage cars painted in pastel colors, gutted and waiting to be tricked out.



In empty lots, signs promise the coming of luxury houses sprung up before backdrops of impossible mountains, and chickens run free, pecking among the garbage. Nearby, the unluckier chickens wait in cages to be lifted by their feet for slaughter, flap their dusty wings in the death-stench poultry house.



There are important messages in the signage, life lessons to remember. Sam the Glazier exhorts, "Don't hold your new windows up with sticks." And a faded girl on a faded sign speaks the deep truth, "Happiness is having your own driver's license."



Along the way, detour onto Knickerbocker for discount shopping and street food--like empanadas stuffed, folded, forked, and fried while you wait. At a folding table a man demonstrates his chrome cleaning product. And the turtle women are here! They used to sell those sad green turtles on Broadway and 8th, near NYU, then they vanished. But here they are, calling out, "Turtle, turtle, turtle."

Which rhymes with Myrtle. Which is a great name for an avenue, reminding me of an aunt I never had.

See all my Myrtle Avenue pics here

Monday, March 23, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

There's a new variation on yuppie and yunnie out there: "Yuggies"--those fresh grads emerging with shock and awe into the recession. "Give us something to do," they say, to help pay off those "staggering loans"--like dog walking, typing, or moving furniture. They also do windows.


People are freaking out--wanting to send the yunnies to the guillotine. This Times article recommends doing yoga or going to the spa instead. [NYT]

Enjoy a pickle on the Lower East Side. [NYT]

Lionel Ziprin, "Mystic of the LES," dies. You can get his Goodie here. [NYT]

April 9-12 at Anthology Film Archives: see The Hotel Chelsea on Film.

Grieve visits the end of Extra Place. [EVG]

Buyers forfeiting deposits turn to suing condo developers. [NYT]

Revisiting Fulton Fish Market--back when there were fish. And a market. [SNY]

Visiting the last outpost of Jahn's ice-cream parlors. [NYT]

Against all expectations, the Alaska Food Market bodega rises again on the corner of 17th and 9th:

Cobblers of Brooklyn

With a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council, photographer Lindsay Blatt takes pictures of the men who repair shoes in Brooklyn.

"During the first year that I lived in New York, I was destroying my shoes at an alarming rate," she says, a testament to the fact that New York is a town often walked. She brought them to a cobbler and quickly "learned that shoes could be mended over and over again, instead of tossing them out."


photo by Lindsay Blatt

She soon fell in love with the cobbler shop. "Each shop is a separate world, and many have been in the same storefront for over 30 years. Each tool, machine, table, everything, is in just the right spot for that repairman. I was obsessed with the microcosms they had built, and haven't seen anything else like it."

At first, it was difficult to win the cobblers' trusts. They promised her only a few minutes of their time. Then she arrived with her large-format camera, "a cumbersome and anachronistic piece of equipment." And the cobblers, living among machines of similar vintage and bulk, warmed up.


photo by Lindsay Blatt

Lindsay recalls, "Once I got there and they saw this giant camera come out, and that I had to get under a dark cloth to focus, they became really interested. The repairmen would come over and ask me to show them how it worked, and they were ecstatic while looking at the Polaroids. Soon enough they were suggesting compositions for the photos, and telling me about how they got into the profession and asking if I was married. They all seemed to have a son that I needed to meet."

"By the end of the shoots, I had usually been there about 3 hours, shared lunch and tea, and knew all about their families. The most satisfying part was last November, when one of the repairmen came to the opening of 'Repair & Shine.' I have a photo of us in front of his portrait, and his son helped to interpret his father's gratitude. After the show I had prints made of each of the guys, and delivered them on my bike. Each of them was appreciative of the work I had done, and invited me to come back anytime."


photo by Lindsay Blatt

I asked her what she thinks will be the future of shoe repair. She said, "I've read a few articles that say this is one business which is doing well in the current economic situation. People are realizing that it is more cost efficient to repair shoes than to get new ones. Unfortunately, I think this is a temporary urban phenomenon. I don't get the impression people are dropping off shoes to be repaired in their local strip mall."

"I believe the main reason that this job won't be around for much longer is that most shoes can't really be repaired. If you buy a pair of sneakers, and the heel starts to wear down, or a hole appears in the toe, it isn't quite fixable. We will lose a great deal if the shoe repairmen vanish. The noble idea of fixing something instead of throwing it away can’t be lost in our society. We must re-learn to make sturdy products from the beginning, ones that are worth fixing when they get worn down."

Friday, March 20, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Berman lays it all out--the hits, misses, and continuing challenges of fighting rampant development. [Villager]

The street artist known (sort of) as Beautiful Mary is now turning his wrath toward doctors. [BBoogie]

When condos don't sell, send out the pom-poms and short skirts. [Curbed]

Lou Reed has some harsh words for Bloomie: "Why would anybody in their right mind want to do something so ugly, so irresponsible, so disgusting other than Bloomberg and real estate people... You can't keep track of every last thing these thieves do." [NY1]

Citizens scream for AIG blood. [Gothamist]

Speculating on the future of Zips bodega at 5th and B. [EVG]

"It’s like they’re doing a replica of Chumley’s for Disney World...Maybe they’ll have a gift shop." [Villager]

Howl

I kissed Allen Ginsberg. Once. Years ago. It was a wet, full-lipped, slightly scruffy kiss. And I'm sure it was quite different from kissing James Franco--who happens to be playing Allen in Gus Van Sant's upcoming film Howl.

This week, Howl is filming rather quietly on Hudson and around Greenwich Village. I passed the modest set and the flyers on the lightpoles, and assumed they were making a little indie film. And then I Googled it.


source: popsugar

I like James Franco, but I'm not sure how I feel about a super-hottie playing Allen Ginsberg. Even the 1957 Allen, which is when the film takes place, was no heartthrob. He was an average-looking, queer Jewish nerd, with chunky glasses and already thinning hair. Not unattractive, but not a pretty boy. Peter Orlovsky was the pretty one.

And while Franco is working on his MFA at Columbia (dozing in class) and recently sold a book of short fiction to Scribner, he just doesn't say "queer, balding, nerdy, Jewish poet" to me. He's James Dean only skinnier. He's Marlon Brando crossed with Jeff Spicoli.

I liked David Cross as Ginsberg. He embodied Allen's enthusiastic goofiness, his big-lipped, expansive way of speaking with wide eyes and twitching shoulders. Allen didn't need to be a super-hottie hipster to write Howl or to bed the boys. New York and its denizens weren't always the pretty ones. They just were.


1957: photo by Harold Chapman

I'm being picky. I guess I just miss Allen. I used to run into him at Prana Foods on First Avenue, rummaging through the bins of bruised vegetables. You might have seen him in one of the Polish and Ukrainian joints, in Kiev or the B&H. You never knew where, but he was around.

That's how it used to be, running into these literary legends. Now it's the movies.

And don't get me wrong, I do love the movies. I'm actually looking forward to this one. I like Franco, and Van Sant's work, and Howl will feature animation segments by Eric Drooker, the Lower East Side's graphic artist of lefty life. So it can't be too bad. I just hope Franco gets it right.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Luxury stores keep coming to NYC. "Someone recently spent $21,000 on sunglasses in one day," says one owner, and "...we're going to kick ass," says another. [AMNY]

Roy says "pull up the drawbridge" on NYC's influx of noobs, hayseeds, and feebs. [RS]

Grieve starts a list of people he wants to see leave the city. [EVG]

Court Street Shine

In just the past five years, Carroll Gardens has undergone the same super-gentrification that almost every other New York City neighborhood has. Court Street is filled with loud people on cell phones and stores selling baby things that look like space-age torture devices.

But much still remains of the older Brooklyn. Saints stand under arbors in pizzeria courtyards. Men in black suits polish the door handles of hearses outside funeral parlors. Bakers tie boxes of cookies in string pulled down from egg-shaped dispensers.

One of the places that fascinates me most is this dilapidated little storefront:



Decorations from long-past holidays grace the foggy windows. Peering inside, you see family photographs, magazines, and piles of junk. In the midst of the junk, a pair of wooden shoe-shine chairs, complete with brass footrests.

This is one of those vanishing places that makes you wonder. What's its story? Does anyone get their shoes shined here? And if not, then what?



P.S. Does anyone recall the funeral home for dogs and cats that used to be on Court? "All Pets Go to Heaven," said the big sign out front. I'd love to find a picture of that. If you have one, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Miracles do happen! Armando's of Brooklyn Heights, which I visited before its closure a year ago, will be reopening in the same spot. Now if only that neon sign can come back, too. [Gothamist]

Food critic Mimi Sheraton weighs in on McNally's Minetta: "It might be that such locals will be priced out of this but after all a restaurant is not a philanthropy. I also think if Minetta continues to grow and be good, it will upgrade the neighborhood... Macdougal is a sleazy mess right now and Minetta Lane is a stark nightmare. If not for Keith, Minetta might have been torn down, or, worse yet, taken over by NYU." [WSP]

What's up with all the street harmonicas? Will we soon see people carrying their stuff hobo-style, tied to a stick slung over the shoulder? [EVG]

"Why talk when you can tweet?" Volume of iPhone messages nearly collapses the grid in Austin, Texas. [NYT] ...and another neologism for our times is born (or spread): Microfamous.

Today's front page--greed is not so good:

Frank's Last Place

For quite some time there has been a Building For Sale sign on 791 Broadway, a nondescript khaki-colored tenement just below Union Square. The sign recently came down. I fear the building might be next.



Passersby might notice the building for its more interesting signage, gold letters that spell out United Orthopaedic Appliances, Co., Inc., Est. 1907. It reminds me of the type of business you might find in the New York City dreamed up by Ben Katchor, a world filled with accordion strap factories, shoe tree manufacturers, and rebuilders of malted mixers. After a hundred years of fabricating and fitting prosthetic devices, United moved out of 791 and was acquired by another company.



But 791 has another claim to fame. It was the last home of New York City's unofficial poet laureate Frank O'Hara.


Frank at 791 Broadway in 1963

According to O'Hara's biographer Brad Gooch, Frank moved here in 1963, into a floor-through loft for which he paid $150 a month. Gooch writes, "'It was quite grand and kind of Uptown,' says Patsy Southgate of the clean and roach-free space divided into two good-sized bedrooms at opposite ends of a large livingroom with two fireplaces and a shower." The walls were covered with paintings by Frank's friends--Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter, deKooning, Frankenthaler.

The building became an almost communal haven for artists. Elaine deKooning had a studio above the orthopedic shop, and the top floors held dancers and sculptors. Frank threw parties here, with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and many others. When he wasn't socializing, he watched westerns on his black-and-white TV and wrote poems, but only occasionally. Mostly, at 791 Broadway, Frank O'Hara drank. The contents of his refrigerator, says Gooch, had been "winnowed down to a bottle of vodka, a bottle of vermouth, and some olives for martinis."

At this time, his poems began to publish in earnest. It would have been to this address that copies of Lunch Poems were sent from City Lights. And it would have been here, on a muggy Friday morning, that he packed a bag for a weekend in Fire Island where he met his death under the wheels of a beach taxi.


At 791 in 1964, by Mario Schifano

Now that the For Sale sign has come down from 791, a new sign has appeared: KEEP OUT-- BAITED AREA. This is always a bad sign for a building. It usually means the place is coming down. While I can't find a demolition permit online, the windows, bare and abandoned looking, also seem to indicate that no one is home and they're not coming back.



When the building is gone, will Frank's ghost remain? A languid figure on the sofa, the racket of TV gunfire in the room, smoking a Gauloise and writing:

the country is no good for us
there’s nothing
to bump into
or fall apart glassily
there’s not enough
poured concrete
and brassy
reflections
the wind now takes me to
The Narrows
and I see it rising there
New York
greater than the Rocky Mountains


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Take another look at the men behind Bono Sawdust, one of the many multi-generation businesses being pushed out of Willets Point. [JPCA]

On the chaining of Montague Street. [BHB]

"They're killing every part of New York," says one South Ferry buff at the new opening. [NYT]

A look at some endangered NYC storefronts. [NYM]

Plywood comes off what used to be Cedar Tavern--now merely "yawnsome." [FP]

Yet another bar for the Bowery? [BBoogie]

Appreciating the graffiti of Mars Bar. [EVG]

Go behind the scenes at the ever-lovely Prime Burger. [NYT]

Ramen Saves the Day?

Along with frozen yogurt joints, the East Village has been overwhelmed by ramen noodle shops. Ramen shops are the new banks--one on every corner. And now another one is coming...to the corner long occupied by Love Saves the Day.



I don't get the current ramen fanaticism. I understand it's different than the stuff you buy dry at the bodega, but my association to ramen goes to student days, being broke, cleaning toilets for a living, and eating ramen for every meal.

This is how it goes in Newer York: Lose a one-of-a-kind neighborhood institution, gain one more of the many same.

Monday, March 16, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

What do yunnies do when you give them a bailout? They spend thousands on champagne brunches in the Meatpacking District, then dump the champagne all over themselves. "It’s like, 'What recession?'" says one. And who's financing it? You are. Says another, “If you’d asked me in October, I’d say it’d be a different situation, and I don’t think I’d be here. Then the government gave us $10 billion.” [NYT]

AIG keeps blowing your money, too, planning millions in bonuses to people who really know how to spend it. [NYT] (Obama's going for the block.)

Coney's 85-year-old Totonno's pizza seriously damaged in fire. [Eater]

"New York Is Dying," according to traffic sign hackers on Broadway. [Gothamist]

Streit's matzo factory (click for a tour) is back on the market after a brief reprieve. [Curbed]

StuyTown ruling makes landlords nervous. [Gothamist]

Grieve is twittering. [EVG]

Friday, March 13, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

Sneak under the Coney boardwalk with photographer Nathan Kensinger. [via Curbed]

City to buy condos? "Seemed everywhere you looked, from Chelsea to Corona, a new luxury building was cropping up,” says Christine Quinn, “Thousands of these homes never sold, left like tarnished trophies of the building boom. These vacant apartments now represent our best asset in the fight for affordable housing." [Villager]

Chumley's (its luster forever lost when it collapsed) has finally raised the roof--complete with dormers. Thanks to the JVNY reader who sent in this bird's eye shot:


For the love of butcher Baczynsky's beautiful plastic bags. [EVG]

Trendy something-or-other replaces Ludlow Wholesale Candy. [BBoogie]

The Vanishing City discussion continues at Dixon Place 3/29--this time with bagels from H&H. [CR]

The uber high-end Brooks Brothers that replaced beloved Nusraty Imports was forced to discount its merchandise ($800 shoes are now $550). [Racked]

Reichl twits of the new Minetta: "funky Balthazar West." Exactly. [Eater]

"Calling All Shittites": New York Shitty seeks contributors.

WalMart Nightmare

Sometimes the vanishings get into my dreams. Some months ago I dreamed I was walking past the Korean deli on 14th and 8th when I saw workers hauling out equipment.

"Are you closing?" I asked. Yes, a woman told me, empty coffee pots in her hands. "What's coming here?"

"A big store," she said, "you'll never guess."

"Brooks Brothers?" I asked. Nope. "Marc Jacobs?" Nope.

I begged her to tell me. "WalMart," she said. WalMart.



8/08

Recently, news came out that WalMart was "sniffing around Union Square," and now they're roaming around Ladies' Mile.

As for that corner of 14th and 8th--where the Korean deli, a bodega, and a liquor store all sit in the shadow of One Jackson Square--I'm still waiting for the inevitable. I checked in with someone who works in one of the businesses and he said the owner has turned down offers of up to $45 million for the whole lot. But on one sunny morning, I overheard two people talking about it, apparently a broker and a buyer.

She aimed her red-lacquered fingernails at the site and said, "It's good to have two floors."


3/09

Thursday, March 12, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

To anyone who hoped the "Closed for Renovations" signs on Chelsea's Food Bar meant the place would reopen, brace yourselves. It's going to be a Chipotle:


Is the lovely and antique Garry Jewelers of Park Slope gone for good? I'm hoping they're on vacation. [HIPS]

A reminder that there are still ways to be enlightened and wealthy. [NYT]

Shecky's offers a guide to reliving 1970s NYC and its movies. [Shecky's]

Recession life isn't going so well for the "Real" Housewives of NYC. One just lost her job at Victoria's Secret. Another was arrested for punching her boyfriend in the face.

Goldman Sachs bankers now forced to drink Budweiser and sleep on 250-thread-count, cotton-poly blend sheets! Life is so hard in America today. [EVG]

Faerman's Cash Registers

Back when the International Bar reopened, I learned about Faerman's Cash Registers on the Bowery. There's one of their vintage "tombstones" at the bar, shiny and spiffed. I put Faerman's on my list of places to visit. Last summer, I poked my head in, chatted a bit with Brian, snapped a few pictures, and promised to go back for an interview. Never did.

This week the New York Times beat me to it.



In James Barron's interview, he talks with Bernard Faerman, age 86, and his son, Brian, about life on the Bowery and years spent repairing the analog cash register, "the kind of machine that is slow. It is thoughtful. It is onomatopoeic. Ka-ching."



"Once the Bowery was cash register heaven," writes Barron. "Beneath the old Third Avenue el, among the restaurant supply stores and the flophouses and the down-and-outers who lived in them, stores trafficked in cash registers."

In a time when the Bowery (and the city) is being bulldozed by a tsunami of development, it's always heartening to hear these words: "They own their building, and the son says it is not for sale."



Photos from my flickr

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

One broker on the LES says "the failure of luxury real estate here would be appropriate karma. 'Developers pushed out the immigrants and artists who made this a vibrant neighborhood, hoping to replace them with rich people. Maybe now those people who were pushed out can afford to move back.'" [TRD]

Must-read article from David Kamp on the history of the American Dream and the "consumerist nightmare" it has morphed into. He writes: "In hewing to the misbegotten notion that our standard of living must trend inexorably upward, we entered in the late 90s and early 00s into what might be called the Juiceball Era of the American Dream—a time of steroidally outsize purchasing and artificially inflated numbers." [VF]

Revenge of the "bitter" renters: "Longtime renters who bore the brunt of the bubble market with no long-term asset to show for it are finally having their revenge." [NYO]

Realizing its guilt and obsolescence in the current climate, a Cadillac SUV commits suicide in the East Village. [NMNL]

Two billboards. Next to the Gansevoort Hotel. Nothing on them.


Meet tonight to discuss changes to the Public Theater. [CR]

Check out the LES Purim Masquerade Ball: 3/14, 8pm, Workmen's Circle. Writes the organizers, "This party is all about gentrification on the Lower East Side, and finding solutions to it through brilliant strategy by long-term residents, newcomers, allies, and gentrifiers together."

Minetta to be "fully booked here on out." So much for nothing's changed. [Eater]

Visit the lovely Schnackenberg's of Hoboken. [HunterG]

Missing the solipsistic bling years? Go back in time and spend a day with Babs Corcoran. [EVG]

Orchard St: raped, pillaged, dumped in an alley to die. [BBoogie]


Untitled & Dogs

In 2006, the Untitled book shop on Prince Street closed after being there since 1973. Downtown Express wrote, "Untitled epitomized the Soho art scene ambiance of the ’70s and ’80s."

Lower Manhattan spoke to the co-owner, Bevan Davies, who remembered a quieter Soho: "a time when the bookstore was one of several in the neighborhood; he has seen a lot of neighborhood businesses come and go."


photo: downtown express

As the values of one generation of New Yorkers were replaced with those of the next, when Untitled went, a shop called Harness Dog came.

Harness Dog was described by one blogger as a "luxurious concept store for dogs where you’ll find clothes and accessories for your four legged friends. The store has key items such as dogs jeans, dog strollers, fake cakes and tea assortments for dogs, customized Swarovski jewelry."

Today, Harness Dog is gone.



The place is sitting empty and for rent. Maybe, with the crashing prices, Untitled (or something like it) could return. Is it ever possible for the vanished city to reappear? Or once lost, is it lost forever?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

*Everyday Chatter

East Village WAMU bank robbed. [RS]

The new Minetta opens tonight. McNally told Zagat, "No one familiar with the Tavern from the past will know exactly what's changed." True? [Grub]

Minetta still retains "b&w photos of people remembered only by the joint's wizened, soon-to-be-muttering-outside-angrily ex-patrons." Who's that? [Thrillist]

JVNY reader and Serious Eater "BaHa" just launched a new food blog--check out her "big balls in Bensonhurst." [WL]

Is conspicuous consumption finally dead? [NYT]

Despite worries and changes, Mr. Albanese is still cutting the meats:


Part 2 of the "Vanishing City" town hall commences March 29, 3:00 at Dixon Place--complete with film and panel discussion.

New P&G Cafe shows signs of life. [Eater]

StuyTowners celebrate a victory for the middle class. [NYO]

Enjoy a little history on Madison Square Garden. [BC]

Visit Colony Records, one of the best places to buy music and take in the memorabilia. [NYDP]

49 Houston

A year ago, Steve Stollman's place at 49 Houston was demolished, taking with it a haven for bicyclists and Automat enthusiasts. In its place, a 14-story condo tumor was supposed to appear.

One year later? Nothing. The demolished lot is still a lot, the walls oddly decorated with flocked wallpaper the color of a faded wine stain.



The blue plywood however, provides a convenient leaning place for busy shoppers, weary from their hunting and gathering labors in "Nolita," gearing up for more. Here they stop in droves, to lean and rest while they consult their hand-held electronics. The super-sales of Elizabeth Street await.